Pinellas County Jewish Community Celebrates Completion of Mikvah

Pinellas County Jewish Community Celebrates Completion of Mikvah

Community members at the ribbon cutting of the new mikvah.

by Dvora Lakein - Pinellas County, FL

October 5, 2008

( Chabad-Lubavitch of Pinellas County and Young Israel of Clearwater completed construction on this Florida county’s first-ever mikvah, Sunday.

“This is a really big step for our community,” said Chanie Adler, who together with her husband Rabbi Shalom, direct the local Chabad center. In their 20 years serving Florida’s Gulf Coast, the Adlers have established an active synagogue and a popular preschool. The mikvah, says a delighted Mrs. Adler, “makes it all complete.” 

Used by married women, the mikvah is central to the Jewish community. For many years, explains Rabbi Adler, women wanting to observe mikvah made the hour and a half trip to Sarasota. When Chabad of Tampa opened their mikvah two years ago, Pinellas county women were able to cut their travel time in half. Now, the roughly 20 local women who dip each month have their own place.

In addition to the regulars, several women committed to trying this mitzvah once they saw how stunning the new construction is. “We specifically made it look beautiful,” says Mrs. Adler, “in order to attract new women.” Guests touring the spacious building at Sunday morning’s event, were wowed by the facilities.

An enormous painting of Israel’s Kineret River overlooks the ritual pool. What is Israel’s source of main water, and at one point thousands of years ago its primary mikvah, lends an aura of peace to the waters below. An Israeli artist who frequents the Chabad center completed painting the panoramic view until mere hours before the opening event.

Mr. A. (Yingy) Bistritzky of New York supports mikvahs around the globe and was the principal benefactor of this one. He flew in specifically for the dedication and addressed the crowd of 150 guests. In his remarks, Bistritzky shared the basis for his commitment to mikvah construction. During the first Lebanon War in 1982, the Lubavitcher Rebbe charged Rabbi Levi Bistritzky, the donor’s brother and the Chief Rabbi of Safed, with building a mikvah in nearby Lebanon. One woman in a small town up north needed a mikvah. The operation, for obvious reasons, was covert and dangerous. But Rabbi Bistritzky and a few others managed to complete the task which the Rebbe had sponsored.

It was the Rebbe’s determination to ensure every Jewish woman access to a mikvah that continues to inspire Bistritzky’s dedication to this day.   

After the speeches, one woman approached the Rabbi and told him that she had just taken on another mitzvah to help her live Jewishly. “We have a great community here,” says Rabbi Adler, “with a nucleus of families who are committed to becoming more observant.”

Now that the dust has subsided on this four-year project, only one detail remains. “The only thing we need is rain,” says Mrs. Adler of the free-flowing water needed to fill the pool. “Now all we have to do is pray.”

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